Thoughtful Indulgence | A Guide to Shrubs


This week’s Journal feature comes to us from Emma Siobhan McLoughlin, a Richmond native and recent graduate. Aside from writing, she also practices yoga and takes an interest in thoughtful food and drink.

As Southern heat rolls through the city and days stretch on longer and longer, the need to slow down becomes less of a luxury and more of a need. In taking the idea of  “thoughtful indulgence” as a way to explore ways to balance overall wellness with luxurious and gratifying practices, today I will be discussing shrubs as a method of restoring health to happy hour.

Shrubs are most commonly created with a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Often times, herbs and spices (such as turmeric and ginger) are added into the mix in order to satisfy certain medicinal needs of which shrubs can help to meet. When consumed before meals, the vinegar in shrubs can stimulate the appetite, improve digestion, and lower blood-sugar levels. Using fresh fruit and a variety of spices can offer benefits through antioxidants and vitamins. Using apple cider vinegar, specifically, is said to help balance your body’s pH levels: proponents claim apple cider vinegar helps restore alkalinity in the body, which can boost metabolism, strengthen immunity and slow the aging-process to give you clearer, wrinkle-free skin.

If you’re looking to try vinegar based cocktails around Richmond, Brendan Cartin of The Jasper, located in Carytown, offers a unique take on an Iranian vinegar-based drink known as “sekanjabin.” The drink traditionally is made with honey and vinegar, and sometimes seasoned with mint. It is served in the summer as a way to offer a delicious yet purposeful cool-down thanks to its medicinal benefits. Cartin adapted the recipe for The Jasper using Hendrick’s gin, mango, mint, honey, white balsamic, lemon, and absinthe in order to provide a boozy kick on the Iranian elixir. The cocktail is balanced and refreshing— perfect for indulging while maintaining wellness. If you want to try making your own sekanjabin at home, we recommend using Potli’s hemp-infused raw honey for an alternative integration of cannabis into your wellness routine.

On a no-booze note, if you are seeking a non-alcoholic elixir, look no further than Pomona. Our friends over in Church Hill have seemingly endless combinations of shrubs, from strawberry to fennel to pink peppercorn— the Pomona team always has something up their sleeves. Another way to purposefully imbibe is through Mother Shrub. Meredyth Archer, the founder of the drinking-vinegar company, adopted her grandmother’s recipe and now offers the shrub in a variety of flavors such as Black Cherry and Ginger. The shrubs are organic and use apple cider vinegar. They’re perfect with a splash of natural sparkling wine, or even just bubbly mineral water before meals.

In the spirit of sharing your own Boketto moments with family and loved ones by creating personal wellness rituals for the summer, we would love to share one of our favorite recipes for a shrub-based cocktail that is easy to enjoy at home:

1.5 oz Caorunn gin or Espolon Blanco tequila

1 oz Cocchi Rosa

.5 oz Black Cherry Mother Shrub

.75 oz grapefruit juice

5 drops Damiana Tincture by La Abeja Herbs

Build in the glass, top with sparkling water, and serve over ice— cheers!

Potli and Mother Shrub products can be found at our brick and mortar, as well as the Damiana Tincture by La Abeja Herbs.

Allison Walton